AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — A Texas grand jury indicted a homeless teenager on capital murder charges for the April killing of a University of Texas dance student as she walked home to her dorm.
Haruka Weiser’s body was found in a creek on April 5 in an active area of the UT campus, hours after her roommates reported the 18 year-old missing when she didn’t report to her classes.
Surveillance videos and an Austin tipster led police to a homeless shelter two days later, where they arrested Meechaiel Criner, 17, a homeless teenager in the care of the state foster system.
The Travis County Grand Jury on June 8 charged him with capital murder, robbery and kidnapping. According to the indictment, Criner sexually assaulted Weiser before strangling her with a ligature.
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office said that Criner’s age at the time of the killing makes him ineligible for the death penalty, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. Under Texas law, he cannot be sentenced to life without parole because of his age. If convicted of capital murder, he must be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, and must serve at least 40 years in prison.
Criner’s next court appearance is set for July 8 in Austin.
Weiser’s killing was the first murder on the sprawling UT campus of about 50,000 students since 1966, when Charles Whitman gunned down 14 people and wounded dozens more from the UT tower.
Weiser, from Portland, Ore., was as a gifted dancer and student, whom UT recruited after seeing her perform at the National High School Dance Festival.
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